Tools of the trade: Hardware

Published on July 12th, 2008 by admin

Besides a computer, what other kinds of equipment do you need to do web design?

A Wacom Tablet

If you’re a designer then a Wacom Tablet is a must! A tablet helps you escape the technical details of using a mouse by harnessing your natural ability to use a stylus. Your mind makes a switch that helps get the creative juices flowing.

I use a 6x8 inch Intuous 3. I find anything larger than that takes up too much space.

I use a 6x8 inch Intuous 3. I find anything larger than that takes up too much space.

Dual Monitors

This was one of the best investments I ever made. By putting my code in one monitor and Firefox in the other I literally increase my production by 50%.

Dual monitors also helps me keep my train of thought. I can’t tell you how many times I was switching programs and forgot what I was going to do.

External Hard Drive

You’ve got to save your precious work some where! I like to have a external hard drive where I can store all my critical files, work or any other miscellaneous files.

I would recommend getting at least 500 gigabytes or if you can afford it, a terabyte.

I own a Western Digital 500GB My Book, it only cost me $100 at Circuit City (when they were still around) and it was worth every penny.

A good keyboard and mouse

Oh man this is a big one. You’ve got to get the best keyboard and mouse that you can. Now this doesn’t mean you need to spend $300+ but it does mean you need to find the one that’s right for you. I’m a big fan of Logitech so I own a Logitech Wave keyboard ($50) and a Logitech MX Revolution mouse ($100). They both have great features that makes my work easier and more fun. For example, my keyboard has customizable buttons that makes it a snap for me to open Eclipse and Firefox.

A good chair

chairIf you do this job you’re going to be sitting down a lot! Get a good chair! It will save you a lot of back ache and will speed up productivity. The saying is, “your chair should be the best seat in the house.” and it’s true.

Some good chairs to check out are the Aeron Chairs by Herman Miller, and the Leap Chair by Steelcase. The Chairs can run you around $800 but the good is news that expense will quickly pay for itself with the increase in productivity.

A good desk

For a long time I had my computer set up on an old table that was bought for $5 and refinished. It was OK but my productivity really suffered because I didn’t have a lot of space for writing and I had NO space for an extra monitor. So eventually I decided to buy an actual computer desk and I’m so glad I did. It gives me space for my 22 and 19 inch monitors and also saves space for my Wacom tablet and notebook (which I always have on my desk.)

The fact of the matter is, if you’re going to do this professionally then you HAVE to own a good desk. You don’t have to spend a lot of money either, I bought a Malibu Glass computer desk for $80.

A computer

If you’re reading this you probably already have one, but is it really the computer that you need? Granted it doesn’t have to be a high powered work station, but it should still be pretty beefy.

For example my computer has the following specs:

  • Processor: 2.13 GHz, Intel Core 2 Duo
  • RAM: 4 GB Kingston RAM
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT

Expect to spend at least $800 on the core components (Tower, Motherboard, Processor, etc) and if you can, build it yourself.

Lots of RAM

Get as much RAM as you can afford! I’ve got 4 gigs and that’s barely enough. If you are not familiar with it, RAM makes it easier for you to run multiple applications at once.

For example, I’m frequently running Windows Vista, Adobe Photoshop, Eclipse, Itunes, CuteFTP, Firefox (with 10+ tabs open), Trillian (IM program) and WAMP. RAM let’s me do all of this with ease.

RAM prices vary dramatically, when I bought my first gigabyte it was $130 per chip. Now (nearly two years later) it’s $25 per chip. You don’t have to get the best RAM, find some that go with your motherboard and are within your price range.

A Microphone

microphoneI have a headset which I like because I don’t have to lean forward or worry about my juxtaposition with the microphone. However, it really depends on personal preference. Fortunately you can get these cheap. I bought my headset for $20 four years ago at Best Buy and it’s still going strong.

Paper, Pencil and a Three Ring Binder

Believe it or not, this is one of your most useful tools. I always have paper and a pencil on hand to jot down notes and ideas. Frequently, I’ll have an idea that I can’t work on immediately, so I write it down and come back to it later.

It’s great for clients

It’s also a great thing to have when you’re having a meeting with a client. If you meet face to face and you pull out your notebook it communicates all the right things.

It’s great for solving problems

I can’t tell you how many times I was trying to figure out a way to do something but I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. As soon as I took out my notebook and started writing it out it became clear and I was able to get back to work.

If you’re not going to get anything else, get this! It will cost you maybe $5 so there isn’t any excuse.

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